An Empowered Decision

How To Become Disciplined Part 3: Making an Empowered Decision

Here’s a quick review of what we have covered so far…

In part 1, I introduced the concept of a discipline framework that could help a person establish the discipline practice necessary to consistently pursue their goals. This framework consisted of the following elements:

  1. We express a desire to achieve an outcome.
  2. We make an empowered decision to go after that outcome
  3. We get real with where we are at right now, and recognize that “right now” is not permanent.
  4. We chunk down SMART goals between where we are at now, and our desired outcome.
  5. We establish a plan to get from where we are at, to our goal(s) (the map).
  6. We create an accountability structure around those goals, and evaluate progress regularly.
  7. We follow the plan with consistency and self awareness.

In part 2, we covered the first step of the discipline framework – expressing a desire to achieve an outcome.

Have you decided that self belief will be the companion to your desire? If so, you have successfully completed the first step to becoming disciplined. Yay you!

Don’t celebrate for too long. Keep that excitement going, because not it is time to take the second immediate step: Making an empowered decision to pursue your dream outcome.

Sounds easy, right? Not always. Sometimes we think we make a decision, but what we really do is we make a wimpy decision. Wimpy decisions leave the door open to quit when things get hard, or we fail. What we want is an empowered decision – one that is backed by our values and a compelling purpose. But before we dissect the anatomy of an empowered decision, let’s talk about wimpy decisions, and the viscous cycles they create.

Wimpy Decisions

We’ve all had wimpy decisions in our lives. You have probably made a wimpy decision today. Think about it. When your spouse asked you what you should prepare for dinner tonight, did you look intensely into their eyes, firm with conviction, and with fist stretched out to the sky shout triumphantly “We shall have meatloaf!!!”

Or (if you’re like me), did you hem and haw for about 15 seconds, annoyed with this first world problem presented to you, and then sigh “whatever is easiest”?

That’s an example of a wimpy decision. Nobody ever decides to prepare Beef Wellington and Risotto on a wimpy decision. I’m sure Gordon Ramsay would shudder at the thought.

Another example of a wimpy decision is one where we recklessly or impulsively jump into the deep end of a goal without meeting ourselves where we’re at presently. We haven’t considered our purpose, nor do we have a plan, and the results we may be seeking are not compelling.

These are the impulse buys.

I’m guessing this resonates with you if you have ever purchased a fitness or diet program that appeals to the basic desires or emotional triggers that the fitness industry loves to punch us in the face with. Johnny Biceps from the infomercial tells you you can lose X pounds or get six pack abs, and that’s enough to get you to spend the three monthly payments of $39.95. It’s also a wimpy decision.  

Wimpy decisions are by their nature flimsy, and therefore lead to the vicious cycle. The cycle begins with said wimpy decision (i.e. impulse buy based on superficial desire to get six pack abs or lose weight). 

Next, we enter into the honeymoon phase. In the case of the Johnny Biceps Fitness Program, we may enjoy “feeling the burn” for a few days, or even weeks. This is because it’s exciting and new. We’re still engaged, and looking forward to those promised six pack abs…

And then one day we wake up, and we’re just a little more reluctant to get up and do the workouts. What’s one missed day, after all? Then an important meeting gets in the way… or we have a wedding to go to… or the workouts are just too painful, or complex, or frustrating. It just doesn’t feel like it’s working, and it’s taking more energy than it’s worth. 

Then we enter the complacency phase. 

During the complacency phase, we do one of three things. We either a) quit altogether and move straight to the final phase (relapse), b) push through the pain because “no pain, no gain,” right? or c) try to make up missed workouts that we miss by doing epic makeup sessions called “hero mode” workouts. The latter two examples tend to lead to the next phase, which is burnout or injury.

It’s during the burnout phase of the vicious cycle that we often choose to give up on our goal altogether. 

Very quickly, this decision leads to the final phase which is relapse into the old habits we wanted to do away with in the first place. Often, our descent into the old unhealthy habits is worse than before. Once the relapse gets bad enough, the next shiny fitness program (The Tina Triceps Fitness Program?) catches our attention and we begin the cycle all over again.

Sound familiar? I know it, because I lived it for years. Injury, illness, burnout, frustration, were always my reward for the wimpy decisions and the resulting vicious cycle.

How do you turn a wimpy decision into an empowered decision? It starts with the first empowered decision: saying NO to wimpy decisions. Then we can work on our next empowered decisions that help us grow, and lead to a virtuous cycle.

Empowered Decision

First, a decision is strengthened by a compelling purpose. Why do you want to achieve this goal? Again, specificity is key. If your “why” is “I want to lose weight”, or “I want to be fit and healthy,” that is not compelling because it’s not specific. 

But wow, figuring out our purpose is HARD. How do we define a compelling purpose?

A WHY that is specific is a WHY you can visualize with clarity. I know that it is incredibly cliché right now to find your WHY, but I would argue that there’s a reason for that. Because it’s necessary. But more than just saying it, we have to methodically dig deep to find our compelling purpose. We have to look into our values. So really, a compelling purpose is borne of our core values. 

If you’re not sure of what your core values are? It’s worth figuring that out. Here’s a little exercise that can help you get started down that path, which makes it easier to discover your compelling purpose.

Determining Your Core Values

Think of three to five specific experiences that have occurred in your life that you would consider your most defining. It could be any experience, small or large, but they must have been moments of significance (transformational, empowering, defining, etc.) for you. Now that you have those experiences, it’s time to determine why they were so significant to you.

There are some criteria for these experiences. They must have provided at least one of the following emotions: great joy, great pride, significant personal growth (a transformative experience), or a pivot in your life (career change, beginning or end of relationship, etc.).

Put yourself back in each of those experiences and start journaling about each of them, making note of specific words you are using to describe each experience. For example, you may find that the career change gave you joy because it was an opportunity for “growth”, “connection with others”, or “challenge.” If these words elicit feelings of joy or pride, then clearly they are at the root of your core values.

When you’re done with this exercise, you may find that you have 20 words that describe your values. Now it’s time to look for connections between the words and narrow that down to about five to seven core values. Some examples may include freedom, continuous improvement, spiritual connection, loyalty, contribution, creativity, humor, etc.

Now that you have some core values, you can start to journal or meditate on how those values can form the foundation of a compelling purpose related to your desire. If it’s a health and fitness goal, how do those values form the core of the purpose behind your fitness and health goal?

As you can see, it goes much deeper than “I want to lose a few pounds.” 

Here’s a personal example from my beginnings as a triathlete. A few of my core values are growth, spiritual connection, nature, adventure, patience, and humor. How does that align with a compelling purpose that leads to an empowering decision I can stick to every day?

I realized that triathlon was a sport where I could gradually and safely (patience) push beyond my confort zone (growth), racing all over the world (adventure and nature), while experiencing a profound achievement (spiritual connection)…

All while wearing tight spandex (humor).

That is the foundation of an empowered decision. So now you can stare with intensity toward the heavens, thrust your fist to the sky, and triumphantly shout “we shall have meatloaf!!!”… or… whatever your decision actually is.

With a desire to achieve a specific outcome, a compelling purpose that is aligned with core values, and an empowered decision you can commit to daily, it’s time to plan our journey. We will share that in the next part. Until then, happy decision making!